North Korea suddenly cancels scheduled visit by US envoy

Posted on : 2013-09-02 15:24 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Official media gives alleged use of B-52 strategic bombers on the Korean Peninsula as reason for cancellation

By Kim Kyu-won, staff reporter

North Korea gave an official reason for the sudden Aug. 30 cancellation of a planned by visit by US State Department special envoy for North Korean human rights Robert King, saying the decision was made because the US “sent out B-52 strategic bombers on the Korean Peninsula.”

The move is being read as a sign of displeasure with Washington refusing to accept Pyongyang’s offer of direct dialogue and demanding “good faith” steps on denuclearization.

The Korean Central News Agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson denouncing the US’s actions in an Aug. 31 talk with the press.

“We had planned to accept the special envoy visit by the US from a humanitarian standpoint and hold serious discussions here on the American currently undergoing reeducation,” the spokesperson reportedly said, referring to US citizen Kenneth Bae, who is currently serving time at a North Korean reeducation camp.

“The US has continued sticking its B-52H strategic bombing in the skies over the Choson [Korean] Peninsula for nuclear bombing drills [during South Korea-US joint military exercises]. By doing this, they instantaneously destroyed a long-awaited climate in favor of humanitarian dialogue,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

But experts said that the B-52 was likely to have been only a pretext for the discussion, and that the real aim was to deliver a message of displeasure - or warning - after the US failed to respond in “good faith” to Pyongyang’s dialogue overtures.

“North Korea holds the key to the release of Kenneth Bae, and it looks like the US is taking this for granted, without trying to link it to dialogue with Pyongyang,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies. “What they seem to be saying is that if the US doesn’t show good faith on dialogue with North Korea, it’s not going to easy for it to free Kenneth Bae.”

Others were more sanguine about the prospects for Bae and dialogue.

Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Dongguk University, predicted that the current mood would still be conducive to a positive outcome. “This may have temporarily stopped the push for dialogue between North Korea and the US, but there is still an overall mood in favor of dialogue,” Kim said. “I expect to see things moving step by step with Bae’s release, followed by bilateral dialogue.”

No confirmation was available on whether the B-52 was in fact deployed as North Korea claimed. Ministry of National Defense spokesman Kim Min-seok and Joint Chiefs of Staff public information office chief Eom Hyo-sik both said they could not give confirmation on the movements of USFK planes.

USFK spokesperson Kim Young-kyu suggested that the B-52 was not deployed, saying the US had “no reason for a show of military force” in the case of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises, since they involve computerized simulation.


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